First principles of hope and enjoyment

Lucy Townsend
Monday, November 16, 2020

The events of this year have come to affect us all in many ways, especially as we have just entered #Lockdown2, and so I have chosen to focus on resilience.

There are many famous quotes in respect of resilience including one I contemplated using from Nelson Mandela following the recent celebrations of Black History Month and another by John F Kennedy given the American election we have all endured over the last few days.

However, I settled on one more seasonal and took my inspiration from the carved Halloween pumpkins in the garden that can be seen from my home office window. It seemed most appropriate during these uncertain times:

“It is really wonderful how much resilience there is in human nature. Let any obstructing cause, no matter what, be removed in any way, even by death, and we fly back to first principles of hope and enjoyment.” ― Bram Stoker, Dracula

Our staff have shown a considerable amount of resilience and we must focus on supporting them to retain it, enabling us and them to get through the pandemic and recovery.

Resilience is often assumed to be innate or even learned; what I know is that it is most certainly not a badge of honour and it is ok to show vulnerability. 

Psychologists Pooley and Cohen (2010) helpfully describe it as “the potential to exhibit resourcefulness by using available internal and external resources in response to different contextual and developmental challenges.” 

Thanks to Dez Holmes’ two minute podcast on the subject which you can listen to here. At the best of times we need a resilient workforce and if this can be achieved, they will make it through the most challenging times.

I was fortunate enough to participate in the research to develop the Social Work Organisational Resilience Diagnostic (SWORD). If you haven’t seen this already, I urge you to take a look, as it is an extremely useful resource.

The phrase that stands out for me in Stoker’s quote is “we fly back to principles of hope and enjoyment.” Work doesn’t always feel like enjoyment and last week it was lovely to hear a work colleague remark “I am quite enjoying this”. 

As leaders we need to role model enjoyment and hope with our workforce, whilst recognising it is difficult at times; this needs to be done sensitively especially where loss and trauma are also present.

Finally, I turn to children. It is great that they are back at school and it has been wonderful to see the positive activities and work undertaken within schools providing both children and teaching staff moments of joy. The return to structured learning also gives them, and us, hope for their future. There remains much uncertainty surrounding the summer exams, the length of the pandemic and when the next sleepover with friends can take place. However, children are incredibly resilient and we should look to them to remind us how we too can be the same. 

Let us ensure we are not afraid to speak out when we are stressed, recognise when our staff are struggling and ensure resources are available to keep their resilience topped up. 

The resources must be made available now, whether in the form of employee well-being schemes, trauma-informed practice or moments of fun and enjoyment at the virtual staff quiz (always fun to beat the chief executive!)

Let us hold onto hope and relish every enjoyable moment.

Lucy Townsend is director of people at Wiltshire County Council and chair of the ADCS South West Sector Led Improvement Group. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website.

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